IBM develops technology for faster, smaller chip

CIOL Bureau
New Update

Caroline Humer


NEW YORK: International Business Machines Corp. on Monday said it had

developed technology to make a faster, smaller semiconductor that uses less

power, in another step toward making technologies such as voice recognition


Armonk, New York-based IBM said it had altered the design of a transistor,

which is an electronic switch, to allow twice the amount of current to flow

through it. Millions of transistors make up microchips, which are used in

everything from personal computers to telecommunications networks.

The development is part of the effort to decrease the size of transistors and

increase computing power. In addition to improving the design of silicon-based

semiconductors, IBM is also working on tiny transistors made from carbon

nanotubes, which are single molecules that form a tube.


IBM will present the development at the International Electronic Device

Manufacturers conference this week. The technology is expected to be used by

businesses in IBM's high-performance computer servers by 2005 or 2006, said

Bijan Davari, IBM vice president of semiconductor development. A few years

later, it will trickle down to the average consumer, he said.

"This basically means enormous computing at the handheld

Internet-connected device level, which will enable real-time speech recognition

as well as video imaging," Davari said. Typically, transistors contain one

gate, which controls the flow of electric current. IBM has designed a vertical

transistor that has a double gate, enabling twice the amount of current to flow

and improving its ability to cut the flow of electricity.

The increased electrical current means the microchip could run 25 per cent or

50 per cent faster, IBM said. The increased control means transistors can be

made smaller than they currently are and consume less power, analysts said.


"Since it's a double gate, you can reduce the number of transistors

doing the same thing," said Frank Dzubeck, president of Communications

Network Architects in Washington, D.C. "Therefore you get more and

therefore you also can increase the speed in what you're doing, because it turns

out you can now accomplish more with less."

IBM was able to build the double-gate transistors because of other advances

in semiconductor design, particularly the switch to silicon on insulator, or SOI,

a newer chip-making material that IBM says is 20 percent to 30 percent faster

than the conventional silicon structure.

The move is part of the industry's drive to keep up with Moore's law, an

edict set by microprocessor giant Intel Corp. founder Gordon Moore that said the

number of transistors on a chip doubles every 18 months. "People are

working on transistor technology because the interconnect technology road map

and materials and how to do it have been pretty much set," Gartner analyst

Dean Freeman said.

"Transistor technology hasn't been set and there are a lot of key issues

as we move forward and down the technology curve to keep pace with Moore's law.

So the area you are going to see the majority of the changes in during the next

15 years is the transistor," Fraaman said.

(C) Reuters Limited.